The tax advantages of trusts – whether onshore or offshore – are frequently oversold, particularly in the press. A trust will offer no real income tax or capital gains tax advantages as compared to holding assets directly, but can be used for inheritance tax planning in a similar way as making a gift. They can hold almost any form of asset (other than ISAs).

The main use of onshore trusts is more practical than tax driven – they can help protect your assets, manage your estate and help in succession planning.  

They work particularly well if you are looking to leave money to young children or grandchildren and allow you to have some say in how those assets are used after you have given them away, even after your death. They also work where you have a family company where you need to have control in the hands of one family member to allow them to run the business effectively but want to provide income for other family members.

A trust can be set up in your will as part of your succession planning. A discretionary trust gives the trustees wide powers to administer the trust, but you can write a letter of wishes which helps them understand your aims for the trust, and how you would want them to behave when particular lifetime events happen such as marriage, birth of grandchildren, leaving university, wanting to set up a business, buying a family home, etc. This is particularly important where you have a young family who cannot manage their own affairs if something happens to you.

A trust can also be set up in your lifetime. There is a nil rate band, currently £325,000, which can allow a gift into trust of that amount without an immediate inheritance tax charge. If your spouse also adds assets to the trust, they will have the same nil rate band, making a total trust value of £650,000. You may be able to make a larger gift if you own tax exempt assets like a trading business or farming assets.

The value of the gifts will no longer be in your estate if you survive seven years from the date of making the gift, and would not be subject to inheritance tax on your death. Instead, they will be subject to an inheritance tax charge on the value of the trust assets over the nil rate band on every ten year anniversary of the creation of the trust at a rate of up to 6%.

We seek to understand your objectives and then explore the best structure for your family and aspirations. Indeed, understanding the dynamics of the family is key and is the area we focus on as Family Business Advisers

We understand both onshore and offshore trusts and can advise settlors, beneficiaries and trustees through the requirements, implications and tax issues regarding various trust structures.

Property in trust

As experts in property, we can also guide you through the implications of owning or buying property within a trust structure, as well as winding them up.